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Using Art in Homeschool – Why?

Learning to use CrayonsOne of the most intimidating subjects for homeschool parents to teach is art, and it actually happens to be one of the easiest to teach and most valuable subjects for children to learn. Many parents think that you have to be an artist to teach art skills and this couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, most children who learn art won’t grow up to be artists, and really that shouldn’t be the point anyway. The reason to teach art is not to create “artists” but to give children a skill – a tool – to use in anything they decide to pursue.

Whether you’re artistic or not, you’ll be surprised how creative and artistic children can, and want to be, when simply given the opportunity. From the time they can hold a crayon or pencil in their hands they want to scribble on everything because there’s a natural interest to “create” in every blessed child. It’s often more opportunity than it is talent with “artistic people” because almost all children have some kind of creative or artistic talent if given the chance to develop it.

If you really think about it, art is found in almost everything a person does. Anything you build, whether it’s a website or a house, requires some kind of knowledge on design, layout and organization. Even starting a farm or writing a book require the same type of skill. There are so many forms of art that we often don’t realize that it’s not just tied to drawing, painting, illustrating, woodwork, pottery and carving.

In order for children to learn the concepts needed in most any profession they should have continuing development in art skills. Most people think a baby is too young to learn writing concepts and this couldn’t be more wrong. Many parents don’t realize just how much a child can learn at an early age if they were simply given the opportunity to learn.

With every one of my children – as soon as they were capable of sitting up on their own at about 5 months, I gave them a crayon and a piece of paper and showed them what it could do. In doing so they learned early on that crayons were not food – not to say that they didn’t sometimes chew on them, but they were learning and thankfully crayons are less toxic than most foods nowadays, so no harm done.

With this they also were taught colors at a very early age – using a crayon, a big lego block of the same color and another toy the same color they learned to identify color by seeing what was the same in each different object. They quickly knew what it was they were learning and were able to identify all their colors by the time they were about 8 months and speaking. This repetition with the identification of colors also helped them learn to speak early.

Then we would scribble on a piece of paper with just the few basic 4-5 colors. Sometimes this only lasted 15 minutes, sometimes the baby was content for 30-45 minutes – but as soon as they began to lose interest we found something else to do so they didn’t get bored and start eating the crayons. In doing this, the baby learned to entertain themselves by doing something constructive, while also learning beginning writing and fine motor skills.

I must admit, there are quite a few things I always liked to teach at a very early age so that I can get them out of the way, so to speak. Plus, I learned that then the kids can all learn many subjects with their older siblings if they have the basics down and then I don’t have to put a hold on their other subjects in order to start a six year old on the basics of printing. Plus it’s such a fun way to play, communicate and bond with a baby or toddler while they gain a great deal of confidence by learning.

That is just the beginning of art and creativity! It starts with colors and a few crayons and then it grows as the child grows and learns. I never constructed or taught actual art lessons to the kids before about age 5 – not because it’s a bad idea, I just didn’t need to. All I do is provide them the materials, how to use them, and a simple set of rules – that’s the main lesson really. The rules are that they’re only allowed to color, glue, paint, stamp, etc. on the paper that I give them – not on the walls, tables, or themselves. And in keeping simple rules, (and providing a reasonable amount of paper), it makes it easier for the children to follow and therefore focus more on creating and learning.

Writing like the Big KidsNow by the time the kids are older and doing more complex lessons we continue to build on art – we learn the color wheel, the basics, but we don’t just “do” an art lesson – art is part of all subjects.

There is also the art of what I’m simply going to call “expression” or Art Appreciation – which is what many people think about when they hear the word art – they think of standing in a gallery and discussing “what the artist was trying to say” with his painting… blah! Personally when I hear that I always want to say – “maybe he just liked the tree and wanted to paint it!” OK, I like paintings, I like art – I don’t care for the “expression” aspect of it – especially in terms of what “art” has become in our modern world – much of which is nothing more than just an excuse for perversion, and that’s not the kind of art I’m talking about.

We do learn art appreciation in later years through studying the lives of famous artists and their styles, but we do that more as a part of history – more on that later.

Art, especially in a homeschool setting, is a tool itself – not just a skill or a form of expression. Art is a valuable tool – just like Reading, Spelling and Grammar – to be used in History, Geography, Science, Writing, Literature and can also be used in Mathematics and anything else you’re teaching. We use art as a tool to illustrate and bring to life our lessons so that the information is better retained and more fun to learn. The more creative a child can be with a lesson the more they can learn from it. There are so many ways to do this and it is quite helpful for the kids to gain the skills needed in order for them to enjoy the application in the lessons. The more they know about color, design, shape and different mediums the more fun they have learning a subject such as History when they can apply the art skills they’ve acquired.

One of my favorite things to watch in the children is when they learn something new and they experiment with it in different applications until they’ve completely exhausted the lesson, on their own accord, and they’ve truly gained a skill that they’ll have forever. An Example.

So, when it comes to teaching Art as a subject many people are afraid to tackle it because they think it’s a skill they’ve never learned themselves and it’s not something we had the joy of using in many subjects in public school. This is an absolutely unnecessary fear in the homeschool world and now we know why we should use art in homeschooling – but now the question is “How?” which we’ll discuss next week.


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